Source : Joey Villar (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Pilipinas will have to wait for another week before it starts practicing as a whole for the FIBA-Asia Championship beginning on Sept. 15 in Wuhan, China.
Head coach Rajko Toroman said while Ranidel de Ocampo of Talk N’ Text will join tomorrow’s scheduled practice, his PBA teammates, Jimmy Alapag and Kelly Williams, are still vacationing.
Alapag and Williams were given a little time to rest following a grueling PBA Governors Cup campaign that ended in a bitter Game 7 loss to Petron Blaze in the finals.
“Ranidel will join us on Aug. 29 and the others later,” said Toroman referring to Alapag, the reigning PBA season MVP, and Williams.
Alapag, Williams and de Ocampo were supposed to join Smart Gilas earlier than scheduled if not for their commitments with the Tropang Texters.
Without them, the Nationals were forced to drop their participation in a four-team pocket tournament in Doha, Qatar where they would have been pitted against the host country, Lebanon and Syria.
But Smart Gilas convinced Jordan and Qatar to fly to the country for a pair of tune-up games each from Sept. 8-11 before the team travels to the Wuhan joust slated Sept. 15-25.
The tournament serves as a qualifier to the 2012 London Olympics.
The Jordan and Qatar exhibition games will allow Smart Gilas mainstays time to blend well with the Talk N’ Text players and vice versa.
Smart Gilas is also still missing JV Casio, scheduled to rejoin the team on Wednesday after resting his swollen left knee. This leaves Smart Gilas with just eight players practicing, including team captain Chris Tiu, also hobbled by a sprained left ankle.
Casio, Mac Baracael, Marcio Lassiter, Mark Barroca, Chris Lutz, Dylan Ababou and Jason Ballesteros will also have other things in mind when they join today’s PBA rookie draft at the Robinson’s Place Manila.
Air21’s Dondon Hontiveros has also decided to quit the team, citing fatigue as his reason.
Tiu, the only Smart Gilas mainstay who stayed away from the PBA draft, however, said he remains optimistic they could overcome these problems.
“Despite some distractions and various concerns simultaneously affecting the team, we are positive that we can achieve our goal for the FIBA-Asia Championship this September through coach Rajko’s leadership,” said Tiu, who will stick it out with Smart Gilas for another two years.